Guardian and Observer journalists yesterday voted to hold a strike ballot in response to management proposals to cut up to 100 editorial jobs.
The decision was taken at a packed meeting of the Guardian News and Media NUJ chapel and comes after management declined a request for a three-month extension on the consultation period.
It paves the way for a pre-Christmas showdown with management over the issue of compulsory redundancies. Uniquely among UK national newspaper titles, The Guardian has never resorted to compulsory job cuts - and the paper's NUJ 'house agreement' states that such measures should only be taken in extreme circumstances.
But so far only 30 individuals have volunteered for redundancy, leaving a substantial shortfall on the target of cutting between 70 and 100 editorial jobs.
Under law, companies must carry out a 90-day consultation period of they plan to make 100 or more staff redundant. That process began at the start of October.
Press Gazette understands that GNM journalists have opted to hold an official strike ballot so that they have the option of taking industrial action when management announces the results of the redundancy consulation.
Guardian management have pointed out that the consultation is for a minimum of 90 days – but they have declined so far to agree to an NUJ suggestion that the negotiation period is extended to six months.
NUJ officials are hopeful that compulsory redundancies can be avoided by finding other ways to save the £7m which management says needs to be cut from the editorial budget. In the year to March 2012 Guardian News and Media made an operating loss of £44.2m on turnover of £196.2m.
NUJ negotiators were today due to find out how many editorial staff earn more than £100,000 with a proposal on the table that all those earning more than that figure take a pay cut.
A Guardian News & Media spokesperson said: "As we’ve previously stated, as part of our five year transformation plan we need to save £7million from the editorial budget, and we continue to work closely with the NUJ to discuss how the necessary savings can be achieved. During this time we want to work constructively with the union to achieve these savings and we will not be making any further comment at this stage."